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Use of a hydrodynamic model to examine behavioral response of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) to estuarine tidal flow

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Innovative telemetry and biologging technology has increased the amount of available movement data on aquatic species. However, real-time information on the environmental factors influencing animal movements can be logistically challenging to obtain, particularly in habitats where tides and currents vary locally. Hydrodynamic models are capable of simulating complex tidal flow, and may thus offer an alternative method of contextualizing animal movement in coastal habitats. Here we use this tool to examine the influence of tide on the movement of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) in the San Francisco Bay estuary. Three sharks were actively tracked using acoustic transmitters for 3 to 4 days. We then generated a hydrodynamic model of the estuary and calculated current vectors along each track. We hypothesized that the sharks would adjust their swimming speed and direction depending on current strength when passing through the channel underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Our results indicate that sharks did tend to follow the current flow in the channel, but their overall displacement did not significantly correlate with tidal amplitude. We conclude that the sharks may respond to environmental factors other than tidal flow, altering their movement at a finer scale than initially considered. Overall, this suggests that hydrodynamic simulation models can be used to visualize and quantify environmental factors that may affect movement patterns in aquatic organisms. We recommend future studies combine these models with other biologging techniques to measure energy expenditure at a finer spatial scale.

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The authors would like to thank members of the UC Davis Biotelemetry Laboratory for their work in maintaining both the passive and active tracking equipment used in the San Francisco Bay. We also thank Michael Gill for serving as skipper of the Aquarium of the Bay vessel when tagging sharks. We want to recognize Dr. Jonathan Houghton, who provided invaluable guidance in the final stages of this manuscript. We thank the Aquarium of the Bay for providing funding for the study through AOB Foundation. Finally, we are grateful for the contributions of two anonymous reviewers who provided feedback to improve the manuscript.


Additional support was provided by California Agricultural Experimental Station of the University of California Davis to NAF (CA-D-ASC-2091-H).

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Authors and Affiliations



AGM wrote the manuscript, created the hydrodynamic model and performed statistical analyses. AES assisted in writing the manuscript, performing statistical analyses and prepared figures. MLB led the tagging and active tracking of sevengill sharks and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. PTS participated in shipboard tracking and reviewed the manuscript. CJS provided funding, assisted in data collection, and reviewed the manuscript. NF assisted in writing and reviewing the manuscript. APK conceived of the project, secured funding, assisted in data collection, and reviewed the manuscript. DC conceived of and supervised statistical analyses, generated the hydrodynamic model, and assisted in writing and reviewing the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexandra G. McInturf.

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Ethical approval

The methods pertaining to shark capture, tagging, and release in this study followed a protocol approved by the University of California, Davis Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocol 06–12,892). Sharks were collected under a California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scientific Collecting Permit (SC-3224). Transmitters were inserted by researchers practiced in the appropriate surgical technique, animal stress was monitored throughout the procedure, and handling time from capture to release was minimized.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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McInturf, A.G., Steel, A.E., Buckhorn, M. et al. Use of a hydrodynamic model to examine behavioral response of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) to estuarine tidal flow. Environ Biol Fish 102, 1149–1159 (2019).

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